Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Business & Technology

Comments

Europe wimps out again on airlines’ carbon pollution

China Airlines
Shutterstock / Lukas Rebec

European efforts to force international airlines to pay for their carbon pollution will stay parked on the runway for at least several more years.

Airlines are covered by the European Union's Emissions Trading System. Airfares for flights within Europe have included a carbon fee under that system since the beginning of 2012. The plan has been to expand the program to include international flights that begin or end in Europe, but that proposal has been vigorously opposed by China, the U.S., and other countries. China had put a large order for aircraft from Europe-based Airbus on hold over the dispute.

On Thursday, amid promises that the climate-unfriendly airline industry will soon launch its own climate program, the U.S. and China prevailed, again, clinching a years-long delay. Members of the European Parliament voted 458 to 120 to exempt flights in and out of Europe from the emissions trading program until early 2017. A bid to delay the program until 2020 was rejected by the lawmakers.

"We have the next International Civil Aviation Organization assembly in 2016," parliamentarian Peter Liese said. "If it fails to deliver a global [climate] agreement, then nobody could justify our maintaining such an exemption." But so far the aviation industry's efforts to develop its own climate plan have been feeble.

Comments

Republicans join Democrats in trying to revive wind energy incentives

Wind energy
Shutterstock

The political winds in the nation's capitol shifted on Thursday in favor of wind energy.

A Senate committee passed a bill that would restore two key tax credits for the wind industry. Both credits have helped spur the sector's rapid growth in recent years, but Congress allowed them to expire at the end of last year. Uncertainty over whether the incentives would be extended into 2014 was blamed for a startling decline in wind farm construction last year, when just 1 gigawatt of capacity was installed -- down from 13 gigawatts the year before.

Thursday's move by the Senate Finance Committee doesn't guarantee that the full Senate will support resurrection of the credits, much less the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But encouraging signs emerged after Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) tried to kill the credits. He argued that restoring them would amount to picking energy-industry winners and losers and forcing taxpayers to "subsidize inefficient, uncompetitive forms of energy." (Meanwhile, taxpayers continue a century-long tradition of subsidizing fossil fuels.) CleanTechnica reports on the encouraging bipartisan response to Toomey's effort:

Comments

These cute $40 watches can run forever on sunlight

Tattoos mean they're hipster approved.
Q&Q
Tattoos mean they're hipster approved.

If you aren’t a tiny doll with a miniature screwdriver, getting a dead watch battery replaced is the worst. Not only do you have to hunt down that little old man in the jewelry store, but you become even later than usual -- or is that just me? The hip SmileSolar watch slices through those excuses like a timekeeping Zorro by running completely on the sun:

solarsmile-solar-powered-watch
Q&Q

Citizen Eco-Drive solar watches may be out of your price range (not that you can’t afford a $325 watch, Kanye), but thankfully its more affordable imprint, Q&Q, sells the SmileSolar for only $40. The watches used to only be available in Japan, but as with cat cafés, our patience has been rewarded. ME-OW:

Comments

Eat your heart out, Rome: This 3D-printed village was built in a day

house-3d-printed-shanghai-12
3Ders.org

To review: In the world of sustainable real estate, they’re making hobbit houses out of straw bales, outfitting old shipping containers with green roofs and compostable toilets, and now, using 3D printers to build cottages. It can be hard to keep up, we know.

In Shanghai, the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co created a tiny village using little more than an enormous 3D printer. The printer produced the houses’ walls, roof, and floors, which were then manually assembled. The layers of concrete used to create each component were partially made from recycled construction and industrial waste.

WinSun claims to have constructed the entire village, which includes 10 houses, in less than a day.

Comments

What’s worse than burning coal? Burning wood

wood fire
Shutterstock

In its scramble for new and clean energy sources, the U.S. government is failing to see the forest for the burning trees.

The burning of biomass to produce electricity is marketed as clean and renewable, and promoted by federal policies. But a report published Wednesday concludes that burning wood is more polluting than burning coal.

More than 70 wood-burning plants are under construction or have been built in the U.S. since 2005, with 75 more planned, according to the analysis by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Integrity.

For every megawatt-hour of electricity produced, even the "cleanest" of the American biomass plants pump out nearly 50 percent more carbon dioxide than coal-burning plants, PFPI staff researcher Mary Booth, a former Environmental Working Group scientist, concluded after poring over data associated with 88 air emissions permits. The biomass plants also produce more than twice as much nitrogen oxide, soot, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic matter as coal plants.

Comments

Amazon and Twitter are dirty dirty scoundrels, says Greenpeace

Digital darlings like Apple, Google, and Facebook have one more thing to brag about: high marks from a new Greenpeace report about clean energy. But on the other end of the spectrum, Amazon and Twitter flunked big time.

The report -- “Your Online World: #ClickClean or Dirty?” -- grades some of the web’s biggest sites on four metrics: transparency, policy, energy efficiency, and green advocacy. Amazon and Twitter each got three F’s and one D (see ya in summer school, suckers). Everyone’s fave microblogging site earned these harsh words from Greenpeace:

Twitter remains at the bottom of the industry for energy transparency, disclosing no information about its energy footprint. Twitter lags behind its competitor in social media, Facebook, which took significant steps to increase transparency and increase its use of clean energy soon after it went public.

twitter-energy-sources-greenpeace-2014
Greenpeace

ZING. And Amazon Web Services (AWS) -- which owns your buddies Netflix, Pinterest, and Spotify -- got major shade:

Comments

California’s cap-and-trade program pays loggers to clearcut old-growth forests

Clearcutting in in Tuolumne County
Ebbets Pass Forest Watch
Does this look climate-friendly to you?

Timber industry lobbyists clinched a nice little victory in Sacramento four years ago, and now forests and the climate are paying the price.

Under California's cap-and-trade program, which began in late 2012, timber companies can earn carbon credits by felling forests and chopping down old-growth trees -- and then replanting the razed earth with younger trees. Which they will eventually chop down, again, after they have grown. The idea was that the younger trees would suck up a lot of carbon dioxide as they grew. But that flies in the face of scientific findings, published earlier this year in the journal Nature, that older trees are far better than their younger cousins at sucking carbon out of the sky.

A coalition of environmental groups sent a letter on Tuesday to the California Air Resources Board and Climate Action Reserve, the state's carbon-offset registry, urging them to reconsider the wrongheaded rules:

Comments

You’ve never seen an LED lamp like this

LED lights often look like glow-in-the-dark Tic Tacs, so this gentle, paperlike design is a much-welcome departure:

dew-drops-light-Ingo-Maurer
Ingo Maurer

Munich-based lighting designer Ingo Maurer created the Dew Drops lamp by integrating a sprinkling of LEDs into a see-through 16.5”x12” plastic sheet. The result is something you might find at IKEA on a good day.

Comments

Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling: Bad for greens, good for Kochs

Supreme Court building
Shutterstock

You’ve got to feel bad for the Koch brothers. All of their billions of dollars, all of their schemes for world domination, and they’ve been limited to only donating $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to party committees every two years. They might as well be mere millionaires. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court has freed the super-wealthy to fully participate in the political process. Score one for democracy!

On Wednesday, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the court ruled that those spending limits will no longer apply. The current $2,600 limit per candidate is still in place. But the court held that the de facto limitation on the number of candidates you could give to violates the First Amendment. Billionaires who have made their money extracting fossil fuels, cutting down trees, and cooking up dangerous chemicals -- the Koch brothers, for example -- will now be able to give the maximum to every congressional candidate in the country. (Or, to be more precise, every Republican candidate, plus maybe a few Democrats they carry around in their pockets, like Mary Landrieu.) If someone gave the maximum to one candidate in each House and Senate race every two years, it would cost $1,216,800 -- a small price to pay for control over the most powerful country in the world.

Comments

Vermont expands solar net metering, gives finger to ALEC

Solar panels in Vermont
Tim Patterson

Bad news for the polluter-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, but wonderful news for the planet.

In 2012 and 2013, ALEC tried to roll back states' renewable energy standards, and failed. Now it's trying to roll back solar net-metering programs, which let homeowners sell electricity from their rooftop panels into the grid, and that campaign isn't going so well either.

Case in point: In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) just signed a bill that will expand the state's net-metering program, allowing solar panel owners to sell more of their clean electricity into the grid.

The bill will nearly quadruple the size of a cap on the amount of solar power that utilities must be willing to buy from their customers. It also creates pilot projects that could allow for solar projects as large as 5 megawatts to be built under the scheme. The AP reports:

Alternative energy proponents pushed for the increased cap after some Vermont utilities had reached the 4 percent cap and stopped taking new net-metered power.

"Our success exceeded our wildest dreams," Shumlin said before signing the bill into law, noting that since he took office in 2011 the state had quadrupled the amount of solar energy on the state's electric grid.

Vermont's increased use of alternative energy has helped the state to become the nation's per-capita leader in the number of solar energy jobs.